Friday, May 27, 2016

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

My 2016 goal was to conquer my fear of baking with yeast. I imagined my kitchen would be a little bread factory; I'd be gifting loaves to my friends and neighbors to get rid of the glut of yeasty goodies flowing from my oven.

Yeah, not so much. When the middle of May rolled around, I'd only made cinnamon rolls and pita bread. That's not exactly conquering anything.

It was high time to bake yeast bread. So when I went grocery shopping this week, I purposely didn't buy any bread. As you know, I'm a PB&J addict, so lunches without a sandwich were looking pretty bleak. Day 1 without bread, I rustled up some leftovers. Day 2 without bread, I dug a bagel out of the freezer. Day was time to put on my apron and get baking.

If I'm totally honest, I was pretty nervous to get started. I hemmed and hawed as I pulled out my measuring cups. But, you guys, it wasn't hard! Seriously! I kept waiting for everything to go wrong, but it didn't. The dough puffed up beautifully. I had no trouble shaping it into a loaf. The house smelled glorious as it baked to a golden brown. And it tasted absolutely divine.

Erin vs. Yeast? Don't worry. I've got this.

Let's get cooking baking with yeast!

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup warm (110 degrees) 2% milk
1/3 cup warm (110 degrees) water
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup*
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups bread flour (plus more for flouring the counter)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Vegetable oil
Cooking spray

Whisk together milk, water, syrup, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups bread flour, flax, yeast, and salt. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the milk mixture. Mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

Turn up the speed to medium-low and knead the dough with the dough hook until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (If the dough is still sticking to the bowl halfway through mixing, add up to the remaining 1/2 cup bread flour.) Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another few minutes. You want the dough to be a smooth, round ball.

Place a little bit of vegetable oil into the now-empty mixing bowl. Add the dough to the bowl and turn so it's coated in oil. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it somewhere warm to rise until it's doubled in size, about an hour. (I put my bowl in the microwave...just don't forget not to turn the microwave on. Yikes.)

Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan with cooking spray. Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush loaf with remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter. Bake until crust is golden and bread sounds hollow when you tap it with your knuckles, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

*I used maple syrup because Elaine isn't supposed to have honey until she's 1 year old. Maybe honey is fine when it's baked into stuff, but I wasn't sure and I wasn't interested in risking botulism. Feel free to try substituting honey and let us know how it is!

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